Three adventurers plan to travel with only the packs on their backs when they set out to trek about 600 miles in northwestern Alaska, covering some of the wildest land in the United States.
Roman Dial, Jason Geck and Ryan Jordan plan a 20-day journey, beginning June 11. All have wilderness experience.
Dial, a 45-year-old professor at Alaska Pacific University, said that for years he has wondered how far he could push his body. He figured he could handle at least 500 miles in three weeks. Now he has interested others in the challenge.
Like Dial, Geck has won the limits-pushing adventure race called the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, according to an online biography. Jordan, based in Bozeman, publishes the magazine Backpacking Light and is a proponent of ultralight backpacking. He calls long-distance trips without support such as food or supply drops a "deep way to experience wilderness."
Plans call for no hunting, fishing or foraging during the trip.
Dial and Jordan are confident as the start approaches.
"I don't think we'd attempt this if we thought it was not possible," he said. Jordan added the men do not feel assured of success.
People have been supportive, but "I think the encouragement comes from people who don't understand what the risks and challenges are, and the people who do are more inclined to pray," he said.
Dial and Geck, using computer modeling, pinpointed what they believe is the most remote point on the U.S. mainland — a place near the Ipnavik River in northern Alaska, about 120 miles from the nearest villages. That location is on the itinerary.
The men are unsure what conditions to expect along much of the planned route. They do not know, for example, how much the melting snow will swell rivers and creeks.
The party plans to cover 20 to 50 miles a day — fewer at the start of the trip when packs will be heaviest. Problems such as foot blisters could be debilitating, Dial said.
Food, including high-calorie fare such as chocolate bars, chips and almond butter, will account for most of the weight in backpacks, Jordan said. He expects they will lose weight.
They also expect to encounter bears and mosquitoes.
Dick Griffith, a longtime Alaska resident who knows Dial from adventure races, recommended they carry a rifle, perhaps to kill caribou. Dial does not like the idea. Guns are heavy and killing a caribou would be cheating, he said.
Jordan plans to post the team's progress to a Web site with the aid of a satellite phone. It will be programmed for calling bush pilots in case of emergency, he said.
The men intend to leave from Point Hope, Alaska, and finish at Wiseman.
"It's not like it's an easy sort of thing, but that's what these guys live and breathe," said Don Pendergrast, manager of the Alaska Public Lands Information Center. "They're different than normal people."